A rough-and-tumble first day of the Republican National Convention ended on a softer note as Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, offered a loving defense of her husband.
It was a rare warm moment on a day when Republicans were focusing on what they see as threats to America under a Democratic White House — and when the party’s infighting was on display in a clash between Trump’s supporters and opponents at the Cleveland convention.
The evening, themed “Make America Safe Again,” opened with a series of speeches from family members of people killed while serving in the military or at the hands of people in the United States illegally. But that was briefly interrupted by Trump, in an unusual appearance by a presumptive nominee, and his wife, who promised her husband would be inclusive. “If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he is the guy,” she said.
But her well-received address was marred by two passages with similarities to a speech first lady Michelle Obama delivered at the 2008 Democratic convention.
Trump’s campaign responded in a statement that said her “immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech.” The statement didn’t mention Mrs. Obama. “In writing her beautiful speech, Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said.
White House officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Monday evening.
What to know about the first day of the convention:
In the main event of the evening, Mrs. Trump gave a personal speech that detailed her growing up in Slovenia and praised her husband.
“He is tough when he has to be, but he is also kind and fair and caring,” she said.
Donald Trump had promised a “monumentally magnificent” display at the convention, and he didn’t disappoint as he emerged, Hollywood-style, through a fog to introduce his wife. “We’re going to win, we’re going to win so big,” he said.
In more somber speeches, Republicans highlighted at length the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, while Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, was serving as secretary of state.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani drew cheers from the crowd as he bemoaned racial divisions, in an impassioned speech.
“What happened to ‘there’s no black America, there’s no white America, there is just America?'” he said, alluding to comments once made by President Barack Obama.
Entertainers who took the stage included actor Scott Baio and Willie Robertson, star of Duck Dynasty.
TROUBLE ON THE FLOOR
Earlier in the day, party divisions were exposed when delegates opposing Trump demanded a roll call vote to approve convention rules. Some delegates left the convention floor after the convention’s presiding officer, Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack, shut down the opponents by saying the rules had been approved by a voice vote.
The opponents shouted “Call the roll, call the roll,” as Trump supporters and party loyalists chanted back “USA! USA!”
The dissident delegates had earlier collected enough signatures on petitions to force a roll-call vote, but Trump supporters persuaded some delegates to remove their names.